Flu season has hit hard this year and manufacturers have started
to run out of the vaccine supply, despite decreasing statewide flu
This week 1,294 people contracted the flu, half as many new
cases as last week.
However, this year’s numbers are much higher than those in the
“We have seen more cases reported so far this year than all of
last year,” said Ann Watson, a health education supervisor for the
Larimer County Department of Health.
And the flu season has still not hit its peak, compared to those
in the past said Lisa Duggan, immunization and infection control
nurse at Hartshorn Health Center.
In previous years, the flu season started around November or
December and ended in February or March, with most people
contracting the illness in late January and early February.
Duggan said each flu season is very individual and
“What (this flu season) is going to do in the future, no one can
really predict,” she said.
At Hartshorn Health Service, 354 patients were diagnosed with
flu or influenza-like illnesses between Nov. 1 and Dec 6 of this
Last year, between Nov. 2 and Dec. 7, the health center saw only
three patients with influenza-like illnesses.
These numbers are comparable to Larimer County, where close to
644 people have been diagnosed with the flu as of Wednesday,
compared to last year’s 262, Watson said. Statewide, 7,600 people
have contracted the flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70
to 75 million Americans receive a flu shot in a typical year. This
year manufacturers produced close to 83 million vaccines and have
already begun to run out of supplies in the United States. Never
before has America used more than 80 million flu shots in a single
“The supplies are running very low, there are few left at the
health department and many clinics are already out,” Watson said of
Larimer County’s supply.
There has been a high demand for flu shots at CSU this year as
well, Duggan said.
Hartshorn has administered a total of 3,850 vaccinations this
year, almost twice the number given last year.
Duggan attributes the high demand for the vaccine to many
factors, including the onset of an early flu season, more media
attention that the virus might be worse this year and a new strain
of the virus called Fujian type ‘A’.
The new strain has drifted from this year’s flu virus. The
vaccinations are not specifically designed for Fujian type ‘A,’ and
more people are able contract the flu, even after receiving a
“A lot of the population have not been exposed to the new strain
and are getting the flu,” Watson said.
With vaccine supplies running low, Duggan has been forced to
turn some students away.
“We have a few doses left for extremely high-risk patients who
can’t take Flumist,” she said.
FluMist, a new spray vaccine this year, is not recommended for
patients with chronic health problems. It has the same effect as
the flu shot but in the form of a nasal spray, with a higher cost
Once a patient has contracted the virus, there are antiviral
medications that can be prescribed to lessen the symptoms and
duration of the illness, but these have recently run low in supply
Judy Holzwart, a pharmacist at Hartshorn, said the manufacturer
that supplies one of the more popular antiviral drugs at the health
center ran out of its supply. Therefore Hartshorn had to order from
an alternative company because of the high number of
“We went through 700 tablets of one type in a week,” she
Holzwart added that the antiviral medications are now completely
in stock at the health center and can be prescribed to patients who
have already contracted the flu.
2003- 354 influenza-like cases between Nov. 1 and Dec. 6
2002- 3 influenza-like cases between Nov. 2 and Dec. 7
Administered 3,850 vaccinations this year
2,000 vaccinations last year (2002)
Larimer County cases:
2003- 644 confirmed flu cases as of Wednesday
2002-2003 season-262 flu cases total
Received 4,600 does of the vaccine, only have 350 to 400 doses
Last year gave out 2,600.
State of Colorado cases:
7,600 confirmed flu cases this year as of Dec. 10
2,681 confirmed flu cases during the 2002-2003 flu season
Increases in Colorado state cases this year:
November 17 — 694 confirmed flu cases
November 19 — 1,525
November 24 — 2,648
November 26 — 3.957
December 3 — 6,306
December 10 — 7,600